Jun 30

Grilled Zucchini

We recently traveled to Vancouver, B.C. and it was lovely. We ate and walked, dined and toured, snacked and water taxied, and yes – we ate some more. I will admit that we planned this trip with the soul purpose to relax and enjoy the city; the awesome food was a pure bonus.

Bed side picnic and binge watching Chef's Table.

Bed side picnic and binge watching Chef’s Table.

The funny thing is, the amount of walking we did does not even come close to the amount of food we ate. But that is the way we like to travel. We start out early, trek through unknown neighborhoods, and discover what they have to offer. We take in the sights, eat as we go, and once we make it back to where we are staying in the evening we are done. No nightlife, bars, shows, or music venus on this trip…just quiet evenings, reading, and some Netflix. It was really refreshing; even when we figured out that we walked about 8 – 10 miles in one day. Although, it was followed up with picnic on the bed and binge watching Chef’s Table.

Zucchini sliced and placed in marinade.

Zucchini sliced and placed in marinade.

Once we were back into normal life here in Seattle, making a big meal was the last thing on my mind. We both were busy with work and everyday life that the simplicity of a salad kind of suited us. This made me remembered that many years ago when I was first cooking for myself, salads were my go to item. But then I discovered the beauty of marinating and grilling veggies. It was so simple, no fuse, and were always so tasty. The other amazing thing about making these is truly, any sliced veggie can work in this recipe: onions, eggplant, peppers, fennel, and squash. Trust me, we have tried it all, but my favorite of them all is zucchini. So the other night for dinner we dinned on a salad and grilled zucchini on the side. It was just as delicious as always…and so simple. Truly perfect for these busy warm nights of summer, you will have to give it a try. We have made many devout lovers of this recipe, it really is a winner.

Zucchini grilled and ready to eat.

Zucchini grilled and ready to eat.

Grilled Marinated Zucchini (feeds 4)

***Keep in mind that you can do this with any veggie, just as long as the veggies are sliced long enough and thick enough so that they do not slip though the grates of the grill.

3 zucchini (medium in size), cut into 1/2 – 1 inch thick slices

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp sea salt, plus more for finishing

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

First, pre heat your grill on high for about an hour.

Meanwhile; stir together your olive oil, vinegar, sea salt, red pepper, black pepper, and garlic in a large bowl. To this add your zucchini and toss it to coat it well. Cover it and place in the refrigerator to marinate. (You should let it marinate for at least 30 minute, or up to 3 hours.)

Then, turn your grill down to medium. Once your zucchini is marinated remove them from the marinade and place them length wise across the grates. Let them sit there and sizzle until you see the grill marks set into the zucchini slices. Once the marks are set, you can flip the slices over repeat the process on that side as well.

Finally, when the zucchini is grilled you can place it on a plate to serve. Before serving I like to sprinkle a bit more of sea salt over them. They are great fresh from the grill, but are great at room temperature as well.

Jun 09

Fruity Pebble Cake Fascination

A couple of moths ago a coworker showed me a cake she was thinking of making for her son’s birthday. It was a colorfully speckled cake similar to that of a confetti cake but the intriguing thing about this cake was that the “confetti” was actually Fruity Pebbles! it was three layers of a vanilla fruity confetti cake with vanilla buttercream enrobing it all together. The sides of the cake were coated with more Fruity Pebbles adorning the cake like sprinkles. The cake was cute, looked like it oozed fun, even though you could tell it was sugary – but it was the kind of sugary goodness you know children dream about. I walked her through the recipe and she was excited to make it.

Fruity Pebble Cake cake getting adorned with sugary cereal goodness.

Fruity Pebble Cake cake getting adorned with sugary cereal goodness.

Unfortunately, her son came down with a bad cold before his birthday and she never ended up making the cake. Shortly afterward, while walking the grocery store, I noticed I was on the cereal isle. Out of curiosity I looked for Fruity Pebbles, but there were none! Let me admit that my curiosity was piqued because I was never allowed to have sugary cereals growing up. I started to wonder: What do Fruity Pebbled taste like? Then a few weeks later I was in Rite Aid to get allergy meds when I noticed they had a cereal isle. I walked down the isle and there it was! Boxes of Fruity Pebbles, they do exist!!! I purchased the box and hurried home. I couldn’t wait! I was going to make this cake and bring it in as a surprise for the staff.

A quick look at the "fruity confetti"  cake layers.

A quick look at the “fruity confetti” cake layers.

Now those of you who know me I am sure are wondering: Why was I so excited about this cake and buying this cereal? I mean it is extremely colorful in an artificial way, the so called “fruity” flavoring was fruity in a nondescript fruit way, and it is more sugar in one intake for a breakfast item then I care to think about. But, I felt there was something extremely reminiscent of reliving childhood when I saw this cake. This cake looked like fun. It reminded me of running around playing musical chairs, wearing fun paper hats, and getting goodie bags with all of your friends – you know the average stuff we use to do when we were 7 years old. I needed to be a kid again, at least just for this one time.

I will admit to snacking on a few Fruity Pebbles as I placed finishing touches on the cake.

I will admit to snacking on a few Fruity Pebbles as I placed finishing touches on the cake.

So I spent one evening baking the cake, and then in the next evening decorating it. It was fun I will admit. It was quite easy too. I boxed up the finished cake and headed into work with it in the morning. Three separate people stopped me on the walk to work at 5:30 AM to ask about the cake. Once I got to work I placed the cake on my co-workers station, by the time everyone else rolled in they were all asking about the cake. It’s funny really, it is like they all turned in to children again with cake and sugar their mind. Once they heard it was made with cereal they were even more fascinated. Once the co-work who started this Fruity Pebble Cake Fascination got in she started to laugh! We all took pictures and feasted on sugary cereal cakey goodness with our tea or coffee. It may not be something I will want to eat again; although, it was fun to experience the enthusiasm and giddiness over this cake with my coworkers. Sometimes you just need to feel like a kid again.

My first and last slice of Fruity Pebble Cake! It was fun to be a kid for a moment.

My first and last slice of Fruity Pebble Cake! It was fun to be a kid for a moment.

Fruity Pebble Confeti Cake (makes one 8 inch round, three layer cake)

***This recipe is from the blog Butter Lust. You can link directly to the blog from here! The following directions are from that recipe. Although, I do not own three 8 inch pans, so I baked it on 8 inch pan for about an hour at 325 degrees. Then sliced it into three layers for icing.

CAKE

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 1/4 cups sugar

6 large egg whites, at room temperature

2 tablespoons clear imitation vanilla

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 3/4 cups cake flour (see headnote)

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature

3 cups Fruity Pebbles cereal

BUTTERCREAM

2 cups (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla

3 tablespoons milk or cream

4 cups powdered sugar

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease and line 3 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper. In the bowl of a standing mixer, whip together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg whites one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the oil and vanilla and mix until well combined.

Next; in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. With your mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the milk (you should start and end with the dry ingredients). Mix until batter is just combined and smooth – don’t over mix.

Then, fold in the Fruity Pebbles cereal then divide the batter between the three greased cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out into a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting. (I like to chill the cake overnight and ice the following day.)

The next day, in the bowl of a stand mixer, whip butter on medium-high for about 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar, mix on low until incorporated, then turn the mixer up to high and beat for about 2 minutes. Add the milk and vanilla, mix on low again until incorporated, then turn mixer to high and beat for 4-5 minutes or until frosting is very fluffy.

Once the icing is made, If desired, level your cakes to remove domed tops and create a more even, professional-looking cake. Place one layer of cake on a cardboard round or flat serving surface and top with about 1/2 cup of buttercream. Top with another layer off cake then add another layer of frosting. Top off with the last layer of cake.

After, once all your layers are stacked, frost the cake with a very thin crumb coat layer of icing (this will help achieve a smooth finish) and refrigerate until icing is set (about 10 minutes).

Finally, use the remaining icing to frost the outside of the cake. To coat the sides with Fruity Pebbles, take a handful of cereal and gently press into the side of the cake. Repeat until completely covered. Note that this is a messy process, but the end result sure is pretty!

Jun 04

Fava Bean and Water Cress with Roasted Garlic Ricotta Spread

A couple of years ago I received the book Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi as a holiday present. I have had my eye on it for a while and I will admit that I was supper pleased to finally have one in my possession. I went through it cover to cover numerous times – I could not put it down. It is full of super great veggie recipes, one better than the next. With full honesty I cannot think of any one of the recipes that I like better.

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The books Plenty and Plenty More.

Then, Ottolenghi came out with another book: Plenty More. I received this one for my birthday this past year, and just like the last one I could not put it down. over and over again I have flipped through the pages. Let me admit that sometimes I do not know what is more enticing in these books, the recipes themselves or the photos of the food. Just like the last book it is just gorgeous!

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Okay, enough of me gushing! The other day while walking past one of the stands down at Pike’s Place Market the vendor told me that the fava beans were exceptional and just came in. So I purchased a few handfuls and headed home. I remembered a recipe in Plenty More that I really admired and I figured this was the perfect time to dive into it.

Sreading the fava beans and water cress over the ricotta.

Sreading the fava beans and water cress over the ricotta.

The recipe was a Fava Bean Spread with a Roasted Garlic Ricotta; I know, it sounds fabulous doesn’t it?!?  So I started in on the recipe. Brian assisted by hulling and shucking the fava beans for me while I took a walk with the dogs to a bakery to pick up a freshly baked baguette to enjoy it with. Although the recipe called for lots of fresh lemon zest and juice I substituted in some preserved lemon zest being I have so much of it on hand. Also, I added in a bit of fresh water cress when I was sautéing the favas. I thought the peppery nature of the water cress would compliment the favas along with the bright lemony flavor. After I had it all plated, bread was sliced and assorted raw veggies to go along the side were prepped we gave it all a try.

Fava Bean Water Cress Saute with Roasted Garlic Ricotta, fresh bread and raw veggies.

Fava Bean Water Cress Saute with Roasted Garlic Ricotta, fresh bread and raw veggies.

I didn’t say a word through each bite! I chewed, I munched, I let the flavors linger on my tongue, and I completely enjoyed ever tiny moment of it all. I savored it all, Brian chatted away telling me about work and then looked at me asking why I was so silent. Once he saw the expression on my face he asked “You are loving every bite of this aren’t you?” I couldn’t find a word to muster up, I was just too busy taking it all in. I believe I put my hand up to my mouth, smiled, and nodded. There were no words needed, I was tasting something so deliciously good I had to relish every bit of it! After a bit of time, and about 4 slices of baguette for myself; it was almost all gone. As we were packing up the leftover we both agreed, this definitely needs to be made again – and it must be shared! So thank you Yotam Ottolenghi, you are super talented beyond words and have inspired a fantastic creation.

All that deliciousness on top of crusty bread!

All that deliciousness on top of crusty bread!

Fava Bean and Water Cress with Roasted Garlic Ricotta Spread (feeds 4)

1 pound of fava beans (about 1 cup shelled)

4 garlic cloves

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup water cress

1/4 preserved lemon peel, chopped very finely

1 lemon (half zested and juiced, the other half sliced)

handful fresh mint leaves (about 1/4 cup), chopped

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Extra olive oil for drizzling

Freshly sliced crusty bread for serving

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, have a large bowl of ice water set aside for blanching. Place the fava beans in the boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes. Drain and immediately place the beans in the ice bath you have waiting to shock them. Once they are cool enough to handle, pop the favas out of their outer skin – discarding the skin and reserving the inner bean.

Next, toss your garlic cloves with the skin on in 2 tbsp of olive oil. Place them on a baking dish and roast in the oven for 10 minutes. The cloves should be tender when pierced. Once the cloves are cool slip them out of their skin giving them a rough mashing with a fork and set them aside.

Then, place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once your pan is heated through add the remainder olive oil and heat through. Add the preserved lemon peel, the peeled favas, and let it all simmer together about 2-3 minutes. Add the water cress and sauté all together until ithe water cress wilts.

Meanwhile, in a bowl mash together you roasted garlic and ricotta. Season it with a bit of sea salt and fresh black pepper. spread the mixture in the bottom of your serving dish / plate.

Finally, top the ricotta mixture with your fava and water cress sauté. Sprinkle it with the reserved lemon juice, fresh lemon zest, and fresh mint. Drizzle it with a bit of olive oil, sea salt and fresh black pepper. Serve with fresh bread and lemon slices.

May 25

Addicting Granola w/ Coconut and Pistachios

I woke with the strange craving for granola the other day. I cannot tell you why, I just wanted some. And just like a craving usually goes, I had none! I had all the ingredients, but none prepped and I was not about to make some. Yes it is easy to make, but at 4 A.M. I do not think Brian would have appreciated me whipping up a batch while he was fast asleep.  Besides, I was ready to walk out the door to get to work. Today, a plain bowl of oatmeal would have to do.

Tossing all the granola ingredients together.

Tossing all the granola ingredients together.

Now I have listed a previous recipe for granola on here. That recipe had hazelnuts, and I loved eating it with raspberries and yogurt. But this batch I made with coconut! Nice big flakes of coconut along with pistachios. I used brown rice syrup as my sweetener because it is more mild than honey or maple syrup…You see I wanted the natural sweetness of the coconut, and other nuts and seeds I used to stand out a bit more. That is the beauty of granola. You can easily tweak it to match you craving – nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, sweeteners; the possibilities are endless.

Granola, baked and cooling.

Granola, baked and cooling.

So the other afternoon while I was home, I gathered my ingredients, tossed them all together, and baked it all off – stirring it frequently so that it baked evenly and gathered nice little clumps of nuttiness. Once it was cooled I stored it in a large jar on our kitchen counter. If it was in plain sight I knew we would make use of it. Each morning this week I was more than pleased scooping my granola and pairing it with some sliced strawberries along with almond milk. I will admit that there were a couple of times Brian and I helped our selves to a handful just as a snack. This recipe is delicious, addicting, and now all gone! I think when I am done writing this I am off to make another batch. I know I will be looking for it when 4 A.M. rolls around again!

Coconut and Pistachio Granola with fresh Strawberries and Almond Milk.

Coconut and Pistachio Granola with fresh Strawberries and Almond Milk.

Addicting Granola w/ Coconut and Pistachios (Makes about 6 cups)

**Notes: almost any of these ingredients can be found at Whole Foods, or trader Joe’s. The coconut chips, pistachios, and other nuts and seeds are best raw when starting so that they roast and bake all together.

3 cups rolled oats

1 1/2 cups coconut chips

1 cup pistachios

1/4 cup of sesame seeds

1/4 cup of chia seeds

1/4 cup of flax seeds

1 tsp of fine sea salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup of brown rice syrup (you can sub honey or real maple syrup)

1 tbsp Vanilla extract

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a lager bowl place your oats, coconut chips, pistachios, sesame seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds. ver the top sprinkle it with you sea salt.

Next, in a small bowl mix your vegetable oil, your brown rice syrup, and vanilla extract. Pour the mixture over the oat mix and toss it well.

Meanwhile, have two sheet pans lined with parchment paper. When mixture is all tossed and coated divide the mixture evenly between the two pans.  Place the pans in the center of your oven and let it bake for about 15 minutes before removing to stir the mixtures. Repeat this every 10 – 15 minutes until the mixture is quite dark and evenly roasted. (Takes about 40 minutes to an hour.) Remove the pans from the oven and let cool about 20 minutes before handling.

Finally, once the mixture is cool you can store it in an air tight container for about 2 weeks. Serve it up as you wish – milk, yogurt, nut milks, and any assorted fruit you wish.

May 21

Spanish Pea Soup and a morning with my dogs.

I adore peas. Brian on the other hand cannot stand them. Doesn’t want to find one on the end of his fork, let alone ever taste one. This is a bit of a disappointment on my part, although the way I look at it is that I get to enjoy them all the more when he is not around.

Martini and Latte Walking along the beach.

Martini and Latte Walking along the beach.

Being that it is spring, peas are at their prime. They are super bright and sweet in flavor. I have been admiring them at the markets, but waiting for the perfect opportunity (aka: when Brian is not around) to prepare some. As luck should have it Brian had to go to away for the weekend for a business trip. Is it bad to say I was a tad excited? This means I get to have one on one time with my dogs and I also get to eat all the peas I want!

Martini wandering on her own.

Martini wandering on her own.

As for more perfect timing that week, I came home from work to catch the Barefoot Contessa making a Spanish Pea Soup. It was simple, straight forward, and looked luscious. I was dead set on making it. Now the Barefoot Contessa made it with chicken stock and when serving topped them with crispy pieces of ham. I may not eat meat but I knew exactly how to adapt it all. I would sub out the chicken stock for a veggie stock, and for the ham, I replace it with some crispy tempeh bacon.

Latte splashing around and looking for fish.

Latte splashing around and looking for fish.

So on Sunday morning I woke early to spend the day with my dogs. We headed out to the beach. The tide was out, and I let Martini and Latte off leash to roam as they please. It was a beautiful morning. We wondered up and down the beach, splashed in puddles, listened to the sea otters in a distance, and watched a few sail boats. It really was a perfect morning and a great way to start a day. Later on, once we were home, I was whipping up the soup to enjoy. As the dogs snoozed and snored – dreaming of the beach I am sure – I was enjoying the Spanish Pea Soup. It had a wonderfully bright green hue, it’s texture was velvety, and it was packed full of luscious pea flavor. The crispy tempeh bacon added a contrast and it’s smoky, savory flavor complimented to natural sweetness of the peas. I add a dab of creme fresh to it all and it is my belief that it was flawless. I know it may sound awful to some, but I am so happy Brian had to go away. I now have a great memory of my morning with my girls, and I got to enjoy a fantastic soup that I have leftovers all to myself!

Spanish Pea Soup

Spanish Pea Soup

Spanish Pea Soup (serves 6)

1/4 cup chopped shallots (about 2 large shallots)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

4 cups chicken stock, or veggie stock

2 pounds peas, fresh or frozen

extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 thin slices Spanish Serrano ham or tempeh bacon

Creme Fresh or Sour Cream for serving

First, place a deep heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once warmed through add the shallots and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Next, add the peas (fresh or frozen) and cover with the stock. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Purée with an immersion blender until coarsely puréed. Taste it all and season it with salt and pepper if you feel it is needed.

Then, if using the ham, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the ham in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for 5 to 8 minutes, until crisp. If using the tempeh, heat through a bit of olive oil in a nonstick pan and sear the bacon until crispy on each side.

Finally, when ready to serve, ladle the soup into your bowls. Lay your ham or bacon over the top and if using spoon a bit of creme fresh on top.

May 18

Vanilla Rice Pudding with Roasted Rhubarb

I finally shook off the travel dust last week. I am settled back into home. I have been taking long walks with my girls – Martini and Latte, enjoying spring in Seattle, and started back in on my urban hikes.

One of the many stairs I climb on some of my urban hikes. I waited until the people around subsided to snap this. So pretty and tranquil if you ask me.

One of the many stairs I climb on some of my urban hikes. I waited until the people around subsided to snap this. So pretty and tranquil if you ask me.

If you are wondering what an urban hike is I will tell you. It is just what it sounds like; it is a steady pace I take walking across the city. I know that there are many hiking trails at the parks and in the outlining areas of the city. But due to my work schedule, my hours are off from most I know. I do not like hiking on my own out on a trail in seclusion, there is a bit of an unsafe feeling about it. Maybe that is because I am a female? Either way hiking across the city has just as much appeal. I take different routes depending on the day. I walk along the water, climb steep hills, go up and down stairs, run through different neighborhoods, and admire the city. Within an hour I do about 4 miles, and there are always people around.

Getting everything together to maKe some great Vanilla Rice PUDDING.

Getting everything together to maKe some great Vanilla Rice PUDDING.

The other day when I got home from work and before I went for a hike I started a batch of Vanilla Rice Pudding. I will confess that I never made a rice pudding I liked; that is until this past year. While traveling in January I picked up The Best of 2015 – America’s Test Kitchen magazine to read on the plane. In it was a detailed recipe of Rice Pudding. I had to give it a try, because anything from American’s Test Kitchen I completely and totally trust. I have made it three times since then and it is perfect. This time I wanted to serve it with Roasted Rhubarb I had in mind, not to mention I had some left in the refrigerator –  a match made in heaven!

Vanilla Rice Pudding cooling.

Vanilla Rice Pudding cooling.

Once the rice pudding was made and cooling I went on an urban hike, walked my girls, and started in on dinner. Once Brian was home we enjoyed our dinner, but as a surprise I presented him with the rice pudding. Just like the times I have tried this recipe previously, it had a great vanilla flavor and was super creamy with a great texture. When it was paired with the tart and sweet roasted rhubarb the flavor paring and textures were wonderful. Eating a dessert this delicious makes me glad I did a hike. I mean it is so good it is hard to just have once serving. I wish rhubarb season would never end, so I can always eat the rice pudding just like this. Thank you America’s Test Kitchen, you have debunked my rice pudding ways and opened my eyes to how gloriously simple a great rice pudding can be.

All ready to dive in on a great dessert.

All ready to dive in on a great dessert.

Vanilla Rice Pudding (serves 6)

6 cups whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup long grain white rice (I used Jasmine)

1 tbsp vanilla extract

First, combine 5 1/2 cups milk, sugar, and salt in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat.

Next, stir in your rice and reduce the heat to low. Cook it at a gentle simmer adjusting the heat as needed. Be sure to stir it often. You want to prevent scorching, and you want to simmer it until  the rice is soft. It will thicken at this point as well, almost to the consistency of yogurt. (About 50 minutes to and hour.) Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Finally, transfer the pudding to a large bowl and let it cool about 1 – 2 hours before refrigerating. Refrigerate it until chilled, and before serving stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk.

Rhubarb - roasted and cooling fresh out of the oven.

Rhubarb – roasted and cooling fresh out of the oven.

Roasted Rhubarb (makes about 1 pint)

4 – 5 long rhubarb stalks; trimmed and sliced into 1 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp ground cardamon

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup water

1 tsp butter

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl toss together your sugar, cardamon, and cinnamon. Take a 9-10 inch baking dish or pie pan and butter it generously.

Next, take your rhubarb and toss it in with your sugar mix. To this mixture add your water and vanilla and mix well. Pour it into your prepared pan and be sure your rhubarb is evenly distributed.

Finally, place in the center of your oven to roast for about 30-45 minutes; stirring it half way. You  are looking for the rhubarb to be tender. Once tender remove from the oven to cool. Best to serve at room temperature, but can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up tp a week.

May 09

Raspberry and Rhubarb French Tart

I ate a brownie the other day. I admit, that it was everything that I thought it would be: soft, chewy, moist, and had a deep chocolatey flavor. I ate a third of it and found myself wrapping it back up because I wanted to savor the rest of it and make it last. On a recent trip, while trekking though a terminal to catch my next flight, I stopped and grabbed a salad and that brownie. Somewhere over the mid western states I finished the rest of that brownie…I made it last and it got me through the last hour and a half of travel without my belly rumbling.

Always roll out dough in the shape of your pan. This helps forming the dough to the pan without patching.

Always roll out dough in the shape of your pan. This helps forming the dough to the pan without patching.

I should confess that as I hurried to eat my salad before my next flight boarded I started to think: Could it be that airport food improved – this salad is quite good?!? Then, I grabbed a coffee as I was back at the airport heading home to Seattle and it was terrible. Maybe there have only been small improvements where airport food is concerned? Either way, I am ready to be home. I miss my husband, I miss my dogs, I miss my everyday life.

By letting the fruit sit within the sugar allows the tartness of the rhubarb to mellow out.

By letting the fruit sit within the sugar allows the tartness of the rhubarb to mellow out.

I was talking with my husband the night I was packing to leave on this trip and he asked if I was putting the tart recipe I recently made on here. I told him it was just an average recipe, but he assured me that there was nothing average about something that tastes really good. You see, I have been making these tarts for years. It is one of those effortlessly recipes that you can always whip together and serve. You can alway change up the fruit you fill it with, and if you have cold butter and flour on hand the crust is just your basic pate brise that you can make within minutes – probably why I always have some in the refrigerator or freezer.

All ready to bake.

All ready to bake.

A couple of weeks ago we had some friends over for dinner and I made a Raspberry and Rhubarb French Tart for dessert. We were having pizzas and I wanted a straight forward, simple, no fuss dessert to accompany it. This fruit tart is light and tasty without being heavy on the palette. It pairs well with just about any meal really. I am thinking that If the rhubarb I still had on hand before I left is still good I will be making it again once I am home. I love baking something once I am home. It makes everything seem right in the world and the nice aroma always shakes the “travel dust” off.

Raspberry and Rhubarb French Tart Fresh out of the oven.

Raspberry and Rhubarb French Tart Fresh out of the oven.

Raspberry and Rhubarb French Tart (makes one 9 inch tart)

(*Note – For this tart I used a rectangular pan for the ease of cutting and serving easy pieces, but any round or square pan works well too,)

3 cups raspberry (fresh or frozen)

1 1/2 cups sliced rhubarb, about 1/2 – 1 inch pieces

2/3 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp of flour

1 tbsp of butter

1/2 batch of Pate Brise (tart/pie crust)

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Roll your dough out on a well floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness. Try to roll it out to the shape of your tart pan. (This makes it easier when assembling.) Press the dough into your pan gently. Dock it with a fork or knife along the bottom and place the pan in the freezer to chill.

Next, in a bowl place your raspberries, rhubarb, sugar, honey, vanilla, and flour and toss it all together. Set it aside and let it macerate for 20-30 minutes.

Then, remove the tart pan from the freezer and place on a sheet pan. Gently, Pour the raspberry filling into the prepared tart pan. Be sure that the filling is level and even all the way across it. Place thin pieces of the 1 tbsp of butter across the top of the filling staying clear from the edges. Place in the oven for about 45 minutes rotating it half way through.

Finally, remove from the oven when the edges of the tart crust (pate brise) are golden and the filling is bubbly and reduced a bit. Let it cool about 15 minutes before removing the tart pan sides and serving. This can stay at room temperature for a couple of hours. If placing in the refrigerator wrap in foil, but before eating / serving be sure to bring it back to room temperature for it always tastes better that way.

Apr 30

Artichokes with a Ramp Puree

When spring begins to show my mind starts to race…Asparagus, morels, artichokes, peas, fiddle head ferns, rhubarb, fava beans, ramps!!! Let us not forget the ramps. I can go on but I will contain myself. It is just that I get so thrilled about all these new and special fruits and veggies when they finally decide to make an appearance.

Ramps, cleaned and trimmed

Ramps, cleaned and trimmed

Living in the Pacific North West I have come to notice that we are extremely fortunate to all of these items and the fact that they can all be found locally here. Growing up in New Jersey and spending a decade in Phoenix I saw my fair share of wonderful local produce. But in Seattle and the surrounding areas there are fantastic forgers. They show up at the markets with different findings each week and it is amusing to try and guess what they might have from week to week.The findings of spring are very exciting in contrast to that of the other areas I have lived. I admit that I never had a ramp before living here, let alone one that was sourced within miles of where I now call home. Walking through one of the farmer’s markets this past week one of the stands had bags and bags of ramps available. I scooped them up, cradled them in my arms, and  thanked the vendor for their work.

Ramp Puree

Ramp Puree

If you are not familiar with a ramp it definitely has it’s own complex identity. It has quite a strong (when fresh) aroma of garlic. It has a thin white base similar to that of a scallion, but the top is leafy and green. The ones I picked up had their roots still attached and were very gritty. I filled the sink up with water and washed them well. The roots were trimmed, the outer skin of the white base easily slipped away, and the leafy tops were brushed to rid of any remaining dirt. Once the cleaning was done I started in on my dinner. These ramps deserved something special to be parred with!

Trimmed and prepped artichokes ready for the oven.

Trimmed and prepped artichokes ready for the oven.

I purchased these huge globe artichokes a day prior and this was the perfect paring for the ramps. I peeled, trimmed, snipped, and scraped away at the artichokes. Steamed them in the oven and made a wonderful ramp puree to brush and drizzle on the cooked artichokes. In the puree I added some Romano cheese and fresh mint, I was afraid that without the mint the garlic tone would be way too pungent against the artichoke. When it came to plating it all I served them over a bed of millet pilaf and sprinkled them with toasted hazelnuts. The whole dish was fantastic. The tender sweetness of the artichoke was a great duet with the bold and bright ramp puree. As we finished our plates and licked our fingers (yes, you need to eat artichokes with your hands), this meal left us grinning, and now I am just wondering how many more times I can make this before the season of ramps and artichokes are gone till next year?!?

Artichoke and Ramp Puree, over a Millet Pilaf and topped with toasted Hazelnuts.

Artichoke and Ramp Puree, over a Millet Pilaf and topped with toasted Hazelnuts.

Ramp Puree (yeilds about 1 1/2 cups)

2 – 2 1/2 cup ramps, washed and trimmed

1/4  cup fresh mint

1/4 cup grated Ramano cheese

1/2 cup olive oil

sea salt, to taste

Place your ramps and mint in a base of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse it all to begin to break it down. Adding a little bit of olive oil at a time while processing to emulsify it all together and bring it all together into a smooth paste. Fold in the Ramano cheese and season with sea salt to taste.

Arichokes (serves 2 – 4)

2 large gloobe artichokes, stem intact

2 lemons

2-3 tbsp olive oil

sea salt and fresh black  pepper

Hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

First, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. With a very sharp knife, trim the bottom of your artichoke stem and cut back the top inch or 1&1/2 inch off the tip of your artichoke. Remove the outer most leaves by pulling them off (about the first 3 layers), and then with a pair of kitchen scissors cut the top half of the leaves off all the way around until you see the leaves are a lighter shade of green. (This is to remove the majority of the most rough and fibrous parts of the leaves.)

After, the leaves have been fully trimmed, carefully slice the artichoke length wise from top to bottom of the stem. With a spoon or knife, gently carve out the choke center until the fuzzy center and sharp leaves pull away cleanly. Using a vegetable peeler strip back the outer layer of the stem and the bottom outside half of your artichoke. This is to reveal all the tender eatable parts of the vegetable. Place the trimmed and carved artichoke in a bowl full of water with one lemon cut and juiced into it. Repeat with the remaining artichoke.

When both artichokes are prepped, place them cut size down in a baking dish large enough to hold them all. fill the baking dish with about 2 inches of water. Slice the remaining lemon and and place it around the artichoke. Drizzle the olive oil over it all and season it with a bit of sea salt and black pepper. Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes depending on size of your artichoke.

Before removing the artichoke from the oven test to see if they are done. If a knife easily pierces the flesh of the artichoke it is ready. Remove from the oven and let cool about 5  minutes before serving.

Millet Pilaf (make 2 cups)

1/2 cup of millet

2-3 cups of vegetable stock

1 tbsp of butter

1 carrot,chopped small

1 large shallot, chopped small

First, place the millet and two cups of the stock in a medium pan and gently simmer for 15 minutes.

Next, add the shallot and carrot to your pan along with the butter and stir well. Continue to gently simmer until the millet it cooked though. You might need to add another cup of stock or water to your liking.

Finally, when the millet is tender and liquid is absorbed remove from the heat and serve.

To Plate and Serve: Ladle a bit of your pilaf onto the center of your plate. Place the artichoke over this in the center of the plate and drizzle the top and stem with your Ramp Puree. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the top and serve.

Apr 19

Lentil Stew in Berbere Spice, plus getting comfortable with new surroundings.

When I first moved to Phoenix, Az. I was not sure I was going to like it. I mean I moved there from New Jersey where I spent the majority of my life living about 20 minutes from Manhattan. Living there you could go in just about any direction and encounter Polish food shops that make you smell like a kielbasa by the time you walk out, Spanish food that would make you swoon, Italian delis in abundance, Middle Eastern food shops that had cumin aromas, Chinese take out counters a plenty, sandwich shops where freshly sliced cured meats were pilled high on hard rolls, bakeries that baked crispy crusty bread, and get cookies from shops that melted on your tongue and went perfectly with coffee or tea.

While living in the Trenton and Princeton area of New Jersey in my last few years there you could stand on almost any intersection and hear language from anywhere in the world. With all the universities, colleges, and a huge Seminary there I felt in some ways I was more submerged in ethnicity than I was in the Northern half of the state. It was living there that Brian and I fell in love with eating sushi and spending endless hours in coffee shops sipping cappuccinos and pondering thoughts on life. It still is my most favorite area of New Jersey…and as for that coffee shop I spent endless hours in – I walked in there about two years ago and the barista looked at me and asked: ”Danielle, would you like your usual?” I kid you not. Almost 12 years later not only were some of the same staff around, but they remembered me and my drink! You do not find occurrences like that too often.

Lats time we visited our favorite coffee shop in Princeton, NJ

Last time we visited our favorite coffee shop in Princeton, NJ – Small World Coffee

When I moved to Phoenix there was such an adjustment. I didn’t find those ethnic shops on every corner. I couldn’t find a hard roll, kielbasa was vacuum sealed in plastic at the supper market, attempts at Chinese take out for a while were a bust, and of the Italian delis we explored had a somewhat sterile feeling. There might not have been Spanish restaurants to stroll into, but there was Mexican. Plenty of Mexican food. Tacos, tortas, chilis, pasole, menudo, enchiladas, and to our discovery- salsas came in so many varieties besides hot, medium or mild. We really enjoyed exploring all that we could about Mexican food.

But one evening after dinner I was telling Brian I felt there was something missing living in Phoenix. I was not homesick for New Jersey, but I missed the variety that New Jersey offered us. Everything here was a drive away. There was no walking to a corner store to grab what you need. I also didn’t feel there was a place to go and hang out at like we did at the coffee shop in Princeton. There was Starbucks (yuck!) but that was about it. They were not open late, they were a drive away, and they did not make you feel like you want to spend and hour there philosophizing. That is when Brian told me he passed a new coffee shop that opened up on his way to work. Put your shoes on and lets go. Low and behold a shop that was roasting it’s own beans right there. The owners were working the counter and the espresso they poured was damn good. They were open early, and stayed late. Finally some bit of normalcy for us.

The scenery and surrounding of Phoenix were a bit different for me to get use to.

The scenery and surrounding of Phoenix were a bit different for me to get use to.

About a month later I was reading an article about an Ethiopian restaurant in Tempe. I begged Brian to go, and finally he gave in to give it a try. When we walked in you were hit with an aroma of spices, it almost made me drunk. The nice lady who waited on us explained to us how to order and how to eat in an Ethiopian manor. It was truly a divine experience. We at with our hands and marveled at the many stewed dishes in front of us along with the Injera (crepe like bread made with teff). The best dish there was a lentil stew cooked in berbere spices. We left there with full bellies and senses pleased.  Between the coffee shop Brian discovered and this Ethiopian restaurant, living in Phoenix became a bit more tolerable.

Fast forward to today in Seattle. There are plenty of ethnic food shops to wonder into. The aromas of them are amazing and it is not uncommon we find ourselves the only non ethnic people in any one of these places. There are coffee shops on every corner, and I do not have to get in my car to get everywhere in this city. I also discovered a spice shop (again in waking distance) that sold berbere mix. (If you want to know more about this spice mix or purchase it for yourself you can find it here.) I picked some up and have been playing around trying to recreate the lentil dish of that restaurant in Tempe. Low and behold I have come close, and possibly as close as I think I could. Brian and I have been enjoying these lentils with some rice and a bright green salad on the side to cut the rich spiciness of the lentil stew. Although I have not yet attempted to make Injera, this stew is more than satisfying to curb our indulgent cravings. No matter where you move to or travel to it may take some adjustments to get use to. But what I did learn I carry with me…like lentils stewed in berbere. One of the many things I cherish and learned while living in Arizona.

Lentil Stew in Berbere Spice over Rice.

Lentil Stew in Berbere Spice over Rice.

Stewed Lentils in Berbere Spice (serves 4) 

(*Note: We personally like this mixture a bit spicy. The rice – in my opinion – mellows out the spiciness. If you prefer things a bit more mild feel free to use 1 tbsp of berber spice mix to start. you can always add more in the end.)

3/4 cup lentil (brown, green, or black variety are good)

1 small onion, chopped small

2 cloves of garlic chopped

3 tbsp of tomato paste

1 &1/2 tbsp of berber spice, ground

6 cups vegetable stock or water

sea salt to taste

First, place all the above ingredients (besides the sea salt) in a heavy bottomed pot. Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Next, keep the pot at a gentle simmer. Be sure to stir it often. You are looking for the lentils to absorb almost all of the liquid of your pot. The ruminates will form a bit of a sauce.

Finally, once the lentils are cooked though and your mixture has thickened you can remove it from the heat. Season it with sea salt to your preference. If you feel you would like your mixture a bit more soupy feel free to stir in a bit more of water or stick to loosen it us a bit. If you would like a smoother consistency feel free to remove a couple of ladles of your lentils and puree in a food processor and return the mixture back to the pot and stir it all together. Serve while warm.

Apr 13

Cabbage, Sugar Snap Peas, and Crimini Mushroom Saute

There are many times when I get so busy between work and general life stuff that I begin to feel like I am not sure if I am coming or going. For reasons out of my control, or quite possibly because I can be a control freak, that is just the way I have been feeling lately. I have been on the go for weeks lately and it somewhat feels like I have been running a marathon. The beauty of it is I know there is a finish line in near sight. In the meantime I keep running, it is all good and it will balance itself in the end.

Is it uncommon to not want to cook when I have days, or weeks, like this? It can be almost too comfortable to run to the corner and pick up some Chinese, Pho, Pizza, or Thai; all within two blocks from here – such a great perk of living in this city. And let us not forget that we have recently discovered that an Indian restaurant nearby delivers… all too comfortable and easy.

IMG_9370

Cabbage, Sugar Snap Peas, and Crimini Mushroom Saute

After work the other day I walked over to one of the vendors at the market and picked up some great vegetables and fruit that are all in season and came from nearby farms. It was time to get back on track with cooking something nice for us with the refrigerator stocked with vegetables and a big bowl of fruit on the table things seemed more balanced, more normal, and functional.

One of the greatest things about cooking seasonally is that you can throw just about anything together with what you have on hand and it will always be good. The flavors and textures will compliment each other and blend in a lovely way, in some ways it is a cooking no-brainer. Sautéing savoy cabbage, mushrooms, and sugar snap peas is like a match made in heaven. I finished off the veggies with a bit of cream and it was sultry. It all was harmonious and seemed easier than take out. Cooking for yourself makes the finish line seem so approachable; that, and I am for sure it does a body good!

Ready to dig in and enjoy!

Ready to dig in and enjoy!

Cabbage, Sugar Snap Peas, and Crimini Mushroom Saute (Serves 2 – 4)

1 small head of savoy cabbage; trimmed, cored, and thinly sliced

8 – 10 crimini mushrooms; washed, trimmed, and sliced

1 cup of sugar snap peas; trimmed and cut into fourths

1 large shallot, timed and chopped small

2 tbsp butter

1/4 cup of cream

1/2 tsp dried thyme

sea salt and black pepper to taste

First, place a large 12 inch saute pan over medium heat. Once heated through add the butter to the pan and melt. Add the mushrooms and sauce until softened and they release their moisture. Once the mushrooms are soft and tender you can remove them and reserve them in a bowl for later.

Next, add the cabbage and shallot and keep stirring until it is softened a bit. To this add your sugar snap peas and stir gently. To the pan add your thyme and about 1/2 cup of water and let it all simmer and steam it all together.

Then, once the liquid in the pan begins to simmer out add your mushrooms back in and stir it well. Season the mixture with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Finally, stir your cream into the pan and coat all of your veggie mixture. Once it is heated through remove from the heat and serve.

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